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Monday, August 14, 2006

The Kite Runner

I just finished reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini last night. I've been glued to it for the past three days and its images have been in my mind when I'm not reading it. It is an amazing story on so many levels. The story is of two boys growing up in Afghanistan--one servant (Hassan) and one master (Amir)--who grew up like brothers. Hassan would do anything for his friend and ends up suffering unspeakably because of Amir's cowardice. The rest of the book is Amir's guilt and quest for redemption. In a word, this book is heartbreaking. Hassan is a pure Christ figure--servant and savior. Amir is the purely human figure--flawed, selfish and guilty. It is a story about loss and mistakes set brilliantly with the backdrop of a childhood in a stable Afghanistan which turned into a wartorn rubble just as the children's innocence disintegrated.

Of course, this is set in a Muslim context with Muslim issues permeating it--in fact the reason Amir is the master and Hassan is the servant is because of the strain of Islam their people practice. Though Allah is turned to a few times, Islam does not provide the redemption that Amir searches for. The book is so true to life in its images surrounding what Amir does with his guilt, trying to atone, trying to punish himself. Amir's mentor tells him that "redemption is when guilt turns to good" when he is trying to prompt Amir to face his demons and finally do the right thing. I thought about this a lot because I think it is the world's idea of redemption--turning the bad things you do into learning experiences and making up for them somehow. This is not a bad thing in itself, our mistakes should teach us, but when can our pennance ever be enough? Only through Christ can we truly be redeemed and guiltless.

Though the plot twists can be a bit implausible at times, this book is a must-read. Perhaps it was not the best choice post-partum as the story's poignant sadness was often overwhelming, but it is the best book I've read in a long time. I've only bearly touched on its gospel implications. Has anyone else read it? Anyone have any suggestions for my next read?


At 1:54 PM, August 14, 2006, Blogger Christian said...

Hey - Marilyn just finished reading this book too! I'll ping her this afternoon and ask her to chime in on your post! Thanks for sharing...

At 3:46 PM, August 14, 2006, Blogger Molly said...

Great post, Rachel!

I read "The Kite Runner" earlier this year and I was also completely drawn in by it. One thing that struck me was how destructive the form of Islam predominant in Afghanistan turned out to be. I seem to remember a picture of Islam being used to dominate and destroy people; it was definitely NOT embraced by the novel's protagonists.

After I finished reading The Kite Runner, I turned it over and read the dust jacket description again. It described it as a powerful story of redemption. As you said, I felt like the redemption was pretty hollow compared to the freedom we experience in Christ -- he was working really hard to atone for his sins, but the best that he could achieve was only a "partial atonement." When you're used to the "real deal," it's disappointing, but complete redemption would probably have rendered the story less believable.

Have you read "Memoirs of a Geisha"? I read that around the same time as I read "The Kite Runner" and I really enjoyed it (much more thought-compelling than the movie). I also have "Shame" by Salmon Rushdie on my wishlist -- another story set in an unnamed Muslim country that received rave reviews.

At 5:43 PM, August 14, 2006, Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Molly. I haven't read "Memiors" or "Shame" but I've enjoyed other books by Rushdie, so I'll have to look for it on my library run tomorrow.


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